A recently published study has found a new a link between periodontal disease (gum disease) and esophageal cancer. Published in the American Association for Cancer Research, the study analyzed bacteria present in a mouths with pronounced periodontal disease, and associated this bacteria with a higher rate of esophageal cancer. Because this type of cancer is highly fatal, the sixth leading cause of cancer death worldwide, the statistics are concerning.
When coupled with the mass of other research linking periodontal disease to a higher risk of heart disease, lung infections, stroke, and diabetes, then it becomes clear that fighting it is incredibly important for a patient’s health.
What Is it?
Periodontal diseases are a group of diseases caused by the bacteria present in dental plaque. The most common and best known is gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums surrounding the bottom of teeth. Once plaque breaks into gum tissue, it can cultivate, becoming an infection and eventually entering the bloodstream.
Symptoms of periodontal disease vary from patient to patient, but usually include red or swollen gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, and bad breath. Dramatic hormone changes can often make you more susceptible. Diet, genetic factors, and other health conditions like diabetes may also impact your risk level.
What Makes it Deadly?
The single factor that can make periodontal disease so deadly is length of infection. Long periods of low-grade inflammation and bleeding can be hard on the body. Eventually, after an extended period of time, the infectious bacteria in the gums can get into the bloodstream and spread infection to other parts of the body. In addition, the chronic infection creates a state of constant inflammation, which has serious impacts on your body. It can even contribute to immune system dysfunction, including autoimmune disorders.
When the infection is left to spread, that’s when periodontal disease can cause more serious complications.
How to Stop It
There are several practical steps you can take to ward of gum disease, and we’ve written about a few. One of the most important steps is to maintain a rigorous oral hygiene routine. That means brushing and flossing twice daily, taking care to use correct technique.
Another important step is to see your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. This helps you maintain a positive relationship with your dentist, who can detect other oral health problems as well. Cavities can turn into infected teeth that need to be treated with root canal therapy, TMJ can progress, and lost teeth can lead to surrounding teeth shifting.
If it has been a while since your last checkup, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. If you’re looking for a general dentist in Anchorage, please call (907) 349-0022 today for an appointment at Excellence in Dentistry.